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The mutual sibling adoration club

We’ve been having issues with Ethan at bedtime lately. Okay, we’ve ALWAYS had issues, but it seems, lately, that the getting out of bed routine has become more frequent.

It’s the age-old story of I-can’t-sleep, or, I-heard-a-scary-noise, or, I-just-have-to-tell-you-just-one-thing. He comes out of his room and sits, looking down through the rails on the stairs at us. Please, he begs us, tell me a trick to help me get to sleep.

I try to tell him that crawling to the foot of his bed to read a book by the light of his nightlight will NOT help him get to sleep, but he doesn’t hear me. He’s fixated on getting us to sympathize with him. Falling asleep is just so hard! Why do I even have to do it?

Wait until you’re my age, kid. You’ll be begging to sleep at every chance.

So we come up with ideas to get him to lie still in bed — to allow his body to relax. Counting sheep is not worthy of a try. Counting to one hundred forward and backward? Boooooring! He needs something to distract him from all the distracting things in his room. I could lie down with him and turn on my noise app on my phone — lulling him to sleep with the sounds of the ocean, but we are trying to wean him off of one of us lying in bed with him. He goes to bed at eight, and if I lie down with him I usually fall asleep, and before I know it, it’s time for me to go to my own bed, and those precious few evening hours without children or work requiring all my attention have flown by. I keep thinking I should buy a noise machine for his room, just like Henry and Miranda have, but I can’t bring myself to spend the money on something that only MIGHT work.

Last night Ethan came out of his room and gave us the same I-can’t-fall-asleep story, and I had a brilliant idea. So brilliant, in fact, that I cursed my own stupidity for not thinking of it earlier. I grabbed the baby monitor from my bedroom, slapped some new batteries in it, and brought it into his room.

“Ethan, how about you get to fall asleep to the same ocean noises that your brother and sister have?”

“Yes! That is a great idea!” So far so good.

“The only thing is, bud, that since this is the baby monitor, you will also be able to hear Henry and Miranda if they wake up and cry, or even just make little noises in their sleep, so when I come up to bed, after you are already asleep, I will take this out of the room so you aren’t bothered.”

“Mommy. It’s okay. I don’t mind hearing them. I love them, and if they are crying then I want to help them.”

He just needed to bat his eyelashes to make the mood complete.

Kidding aside, this boy’s affection for his younger siblings is quite beautiful. I spent much of my pregnancy, between the heartburn and the insomnia, worrying about how upside-down Ethan’s world would get once his brother and sister barged into it. We had hoped for mild indifference, maybe a few kisses here and there, but what we got was a loving, protective, sweet older brother. Affection that exceeded all expectations. And not one bit of resentment. I hear stories of kids who ask their parents to take their newly born sibling back to the hospital, or kids who react in other ways — reverting to more babylike behavior to get attention. Ethan never did that. He seemed to understand from the moment they were born, that even though they required much of my attention, it didn’t mean I loved him any less.

The affection is quite mutual. Miranda and Henry adore their big brother. Worship him (heaven help me). Ethan was sitting on the chair in their room last night, crying for some reason, and Miranda plopped herself down next to him and started rubbing his head and kissing his cheek. Henry looked at me with his big brown eyes (I was changing his diaper) and said, “Ee-tan, cryin’! Oh no!” They don’t like to see Ethan sad.

We’ll be all downstairs and I’ll ask Ethan if he wants to go upstairs to his room and play with his little Legos, and more often than not, he chooses to stay downstairs. “I’d rather play with them,” he says. “I want to make them laugh.”

And, oh, does he make them laugh! Lately, the favored post-dinner activity is for Ethan to dart around the kitchen and playroom, asking for Henry and Miranda to catch him. He will run from the bathroom door to the kitchen, he’ll dive under the play table, he’ll scoot past furniture, and they follow, screeching and laughing all the way down to their bellies.

“Runnin’!” Miranda screams. “FUNNY!”

We remind Ethan that the things he does, how he reacts to people, are watched very carefully by his siblings. “You are their main role model,” I tell him. “They will learn about things from me and Daddy, of course, but they will learn a LOT from watching you.”  He’s noticing more and more just how true that is, especially now that they are older and talking in ways we can actually understand. Sometimes he takes it very seriously, and we do over-the-top “scenes” of displaying good manners. PLEASE and THANK YOU and YOU’RE WELCOME cannot be drilled into kids’ heads enough, as far as I’m concerned, so I’m happy for the big brother back-up.

As nuts as it gets in this house at times, I know that all the running and screeching and hugging and laughing that contributes to the crazy is all just cementing their life-long sibling bond. There will come a time when Ethan will ignore them for more “big-kid” endeavors. They won’t all want to hang out with one another as much someday, but I know the underlying love and adoration will still be there. I’ll take what I can get in whatever way it manifests, loud and crazy and all.

And I’ll gladly take the willingness from Ethan to listen to the sleeping noises of his brother and sister in order to also listen to their noise machine. He was asleep within ten minutes. Was it just the noise that helped, or the thought that he was sharing it with his siblings?

We’ll try it again tonight.

One Comment

  1. Grandma says:

    Have you continued with the monitor and has it continued to work? Great to have a solution since I have observed the bed-time behaviors first hand.